PBA: Robert 'Big J' Jaworski record within reach of Tim Cone

By Jonas Terrado

The upcoming PBA Governors’ Cup Finals will not only be an opportunity for Tim Cone to win an unprecedented 22nd championship but also tie a Barangay Ginebra San Miguel record currently held by the great Robert Jaworski.

PBA legend Robert "Sonny" Jaworski (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio) PBA legend Robert "Sonny" Jaworski (MB Photo /  Rio Leonelle Deluvio, File)

Another victory over the Meralco Bolts in the best-of-seven series which starts Tuesday will give Cone his fourth title as Ginebra coach, equaling the mark Jaworski set since the time he turned the former La Tondena franchise into the country’s most popular team.

Ginebra coach Tim Cone (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio, File) Ginebra coach Tim Cone (MB Photo / Rio Deluvio, File)

“He’s been an influence in my life in terms of basketball since I was literally 11-12 years old,” Cone said when told of the possibly of tying the team record. “I followed his career, incredibly all the way through and amazingly, I got to coach against him for many years.”

Interestingly, some of Cone’s title wins came at Jaworski’s expense, winning his first back in the 1991 Third Conference when Alaska defeated Ginebra 3-1, and in the 1996 Governors’ Cup when Alaska prevailed in five games to complete a rare Grand Slam.

Cone and the Milkmen later lost to Jaworski in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup Finals, marking the last time the man they call the “Living Legend” won a PBA crown.

Jaworski’s other title wins with Ginebra came in the 1986 Open Conference, 1988 All-Filipino Cup and the 1991 Open Conference.

But long before he got a chance to battle with his idol on the sidelines, a young Cone was able to see Jaworski during the latter’s time as a star playmaker for Meralco in the old MICAA.

It was with the Reddy Kilowatts where Jaworski began forming a partnership with Francis Arnaiz that resulted in the 1971 MICAA championship victory over Crispa.

“I used to go to the old Meralco practices, and I even watched a movie with the Meralco team at the Meralco Theater,” Cone recalled. “I remember I was like 12 and I think I got to watch just for the team itself. And me and my friend had a connection through my friend’s sister who was the girlfriend of Fort Acuna at that time.

“I don’t think Senator Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz or any of those guys remember us, but we certainly remember being there and going to practices,” he added.

Cone is glad he’s been able to get a chance to interact with Jaworski like friends, though the American mentor couldn’t help feel like he’s on cloud nine from time to time.

“He’s probably one of the biggest impacts in my life because basketball’s been so important to me throughout my life,” Cone added. “Now I got to know him, see him and get to talk like friend, it’s like me getting a chance to talk to Phil Jackson, someone like that so it’s really an honor. I’m sure, he doesn’t see it that way. But for me, it’s truly an honor to be around and have a chance to interact with him.”

And if ever Cone gets to get title No. 4 as Ginebra coach, he hopes to see Jaworski around to share the moment.

“I hope Senator Jaworski is there if we get a chance to tie his record so I can shake his hand,” he said. “That means if I do, that means we won.”